NPR Training
Storytelling tips and best practices

2018 Story Lab Workshop agenda

The 2018 Story Lab Workshop will be held at NPR HQ in Washington, D.C., May 8-11. During the workshop, 10 public media teams will work on audio storytelling projects with mentors from across NPR, while attending workshops designed by the NPR Training team to foster innovation in journalism and storytelling. The agenda is below.

We will use the hashtag #nprstorylab. Follow the workshop participants via this Twitter list.


Tuesday, May 8

8:00 – 9:00 a.m.

Check-in and breakfast

9:00 – 9:15 a.m.

Welcome remarks
Loren Mayor, Chief Operating Officer
Anya Grundman, VP of Programming and Audience Development
Chris Turpin, Acting SVP of News 

9:15 – 10:00 a.m.

Team introductions

10:00 – 11:00 a.m.

How an audio project gets invented… and reinvented

How do you get a project off the ground – and keep it going once it’s in flight? Hidden Brain’s Shankar Vedantam and Tara Boyle talk about the launch of their podcast and how they’ve made it sustainable, even as they continue to experiment with sound and structure.

Shankar Vedantam, Host/Correspondent, Hidden Brain
Tara Boyle, Supervising Producer, Hidden Brain

11:00 – 11:15 a.m.


11:15 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Get to know the Project Blueprint

The best projects emerge from a process of intentional design. Before you start making a series or podcast, you should have a clear sense of who you’re trying to reach, what you’re trying to say and the scope of your project on all platforms. We’ll introduce you to the tool you’ll use to shape your project this week.

Liz Danzico, NPR Creative Director
Serri Graslie, Director of Digital Training, NPR Training

12:00 – 1:00 p.m.

Working time with mentors

1:00 – 2:00 p.m.


2:00 – 3:15 p.m.

Bringing the workshop home: Advice from someone who’s been there (Yes — right there, where you’re sitting!)

How do you keep the momentum of Story Lab going once you return home? How do you share what you learned — and make sure you’ve got time to apply it to your project? In this session, you’ll hear from Meg Martin, who attended last year’s workshop and was part of the team behind the award-winning podcast, 74 Seconds.

Meg Martin, Managing Editor, Minnesota Public Radio

3:15 – 3:30 p.m.

AIR introduction
Tran Vu, Program Director, Association of Independents in Radio

3:30 – 5:15 p.m.

Working time with mentors

Wednesday, May 9

8:30 – 9:00 a.m.


9:00 – 9:15 a.m.

Project updates & morning announcements

Each team will share a quick (1 minute) update on their project. You can answer any of the following questions:

  1. What’s a challenge you’ve come up against?
  2. Has anything changed in your project?
  3. What are you focusing on today?

9:15 – 10:30 a.m.

Editorial potholes & narrative plotholes

We’ll wrestle with some of the key reporting and storytelling challenges you face, such as fairness, completeness, conflicts of interest, impartiality, etc. Where do you draw the lines in your projects?

Ailsa Chang, Host/Correspondent, All Things Considered & Planet Money
Nell Greenfieldboyce, Correspondent, Science Desk
Mark Memmott, Supervising Sr. Editor for Standards & Practices
Moderator: Keith Woods, VP of Newsroom Training & Diversity

10:30 – 10:45 a.m.


10:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

Working time with mentors

12:15 – 1:00 p.m.


1:00 – 2:00 p.m.

Working time with mentors

2:00 – 2:15 p.m.


2:15 – 3:45 p.m.

Breakout sessions (Block A)

How to build for audiences (and why you don’t have a choice)

You can’t create a successful project without an audience in mind. Asking yourself questions like “who is this for?” and “what do they need?” at the beginning can mean the difference between a forgettable story and one that changes a person’s life. But the work doesn’t stop there — you have to bring your audience along and keep testing, testing, testing. In this session, you’ll see the evidence for this approach in NPR One data and learn how NPR podcast producers are applying it across platforms.

Tamar Charney, Managing Editor, NPR One
Brent Baughman, Sr.Producer, NPR Programming

Liana Simonds, Project Manager, Invisibilia

Front-end diversity

Thinking about diversity from the very beginning is the best way to tell stories that include great voices and valuable perspectives and ring of authenticity and rich, informed context. We’ll look at your projects through that lens, tackling some of the concerns and ambitions you’ve raised.

Keith Woods, VP of Newsroom Training & Diversity

Vision, stories and ways of seeing: Visual literacy workshop

In this workshop we’ll talk about the possibilities of thinking visually, discuss how to read visual journalism and the role of visuals in reporting responsibly and effectively.

Laura Beltn Villamizar, NPR Projects Pictures Editor

Finding the right workflow

Every new project needs to establish an optimal workflow. Finding the right workflow assumes that you’ve answered some really basic questions about your show: What is the value proposition? Who is our target audience? How much staff is needed to make the show sustainable? It’s a process. You’ll learn a lot during piloting. But some important questions might not be answered until the show is out in the wild, connecting with an audience. In this session, you’ll hear about lessons on workflow from some of NPR’s most successful on-demand properties.

Neal Carruth, General Manager, Podcasts
Parth Shah, Assistant Producer,
Hidden Brain

3:45 – 4:00 p.m.


4:00 – 5:30 p.m.

Breakout sessions repeat (Block B)

Thursday, May 10

8:30 – 9:00 a.m.


9:00 – 9:15 a.m.

Project updates & morning announcements

Each team will share a quick (1 minute) update on their project. You can answer any of the following questions:

  1. What’s a challenge you’ve come up against?
  2. Has anything changed in your project?
  3. What are you focusing on today?

9:15 – 10:30 a.m.

The make or break moment: How audio stories begin

No matter the format or platform, the best audio stories hook listeners fast. But there’s no “right” way of doing it. How to begin presents a creative puzzle that’s different for every story. In this session, we will listen critically to different beginnings and discuss how to craft the most compelling, creative, ear-catching starting points.

Alison MacAdam, Sr. Editorial Specialist, NPR Training

10:30 -10:45 a.m.


10:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Small team focus groups with mentors

We’ll pair you up with another team to bounce ideas off one another and get feedback. This is also your chance to ask questions of another mentor.

12:00 – 12:45 p.m.


12:45 – 2:00 p.m.

The unique challenges of longform audio

How do we keep listeners with us when we tell long stories? It requires special attention to story structure, narration and production – to make sure the audience doesn’t get bored or lost. This panel gathers reporters and producers with diverse experience – from hard-hitting investigations to sound design. Bring your questions!

Ramtin Arablouei, Producer, How I Built This, composer
Joe Shaprio, Correspondent, Investigations
Yowei Shaw, Senior Producer/Reporter, Invisibilia
Moderator: Alison MacAdam, Sr. Editorial Specialist, NPR Training

2:00 – 3:30 p.m.

Building tours

Office Hours

This is your chance to meet one-on-one with subject matter experts on the topics below.

Business modeling
Dan McCoy, Director, Business Partnership

Marketing & branding
Rekha Patricio, Director of Marketing
Stuart Symington, Account Manager, Marketing

NPR One (platform, podcasts & analytics)
Tamar Charney, Managing Editor
Emily Barocas, Podcast Lead
Nick DePrey, Product Manager Programming Analyst

Podcast metrics
Alex Hofmann, Business Intelligence Developer

Resources for independent producers
Tran Vu, Program Director, AIR

Story Lab & budgeting
N’Jeri Eaton, Sr. Manager of Programming Acquisitions

Technical production (recording, mixing, etc.)
Rob Byers, Sr. Production Strategist, NPR Training

Nick Michael, Editor, NPR Video

3:30 – 5:00 p.m.

Working time with mentors

5:00 – 6:30 p.m.

Working dinner

Friday, May 11

8:30 – 9:00 a.m.


9:00 – 10:00 a.m.

Presentation prep

10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Project presentations

This presentation is the capstone of the workshop experience. It’s designed to help you clarify your ideas and get comfortable putting them out there for feedback and improvement. We have invited all NPR staff to this session.

Each team will have five minutes to present and five minutes for questions and feedback. No audio allowed, but you can design one slide if you want (Google Slides, please).

Presentation structure:
1. Introduce your project, using material generated in your blueprint (hint: the “memorable sentence” is a good place to start).
2. Describe something about your project that changed over the course of the workshop.
3. Talk about one challenge you face post-workshop (other than finding time to work on it).

12:30 – 1:15 p.m.


1:15 – 1:30 p.m.

Group picture

1:30 – 2:00 p.m.

Wrap up & closing